The majority of the top influencers in the natural hair community could star in a reality show called Lifestyles of The Racially Ambiguous. With light skin, slender figures, and loose curl patterns their appearances all tend to fit into the same predictable mold. And that mold can be a profitable one. Looser curl patterns tend to lead to more views, likes, and comments on social media and with that level of engagement from consumers comes more access to brand partnerships, hosting gigs, and other opportunities.
And that’s just in the influencer space. Those transitioning in private have to deal with video tutorials that fail to represent their hair type and products that don’t suit their hair needs. No matter how passively it’s being disseminated, the message being sent within our community is clear: there are plenty of perks to be had when you have a certain “look”. But exclusively promoting that look is problematic, and young Black women –and even the influencers who benefit from this homogeneity –are beginning to speak up.
One of the ways influencer and motivational speaker Ayana Iman fights the promotion of hair privilege is by banning negative self-talk on all of her platforms. “There was a woman that commented on one of my photos who said I hate my hair it never retains moisture,” she told us. “I was like ‘no girl you can’t do that. Love every follicle, you’ve earned it.”
Images of Iman and her beau have gone viral and received waves of praise, but whenever someone dubs her #hairgoals she is quick to sound off in comment sections and remind women that all hair is good hair. “A part of Black girl magic is we’re able to be long, straight, kinky, curly, and coily.”
One of Curlfest’s founders, Simone Mair, said the purpose of the annual Brooklyn event is to combat hair privilege. “We are creating a platform where there’s no representation in the larger market. We have everywhere from kinks and curls to looser curls to straight hair. Everyone is invited to have a seat at the table.”
Brands have a responsibility to promote and celebrate all hair textures as well. Unfortunately, some companies are afraid to financially support events like Curlfest for fear of alienating their clients. Beleza Natural, however, a brand that recently expanded from its Brazilian origins, was proud to support the diversity the event encourages.
“We have to cater to everyone, to create products, services, and experiences that empower our culture, said founder Leila Velez who pointed out that, despite what the media projects, “in Brazil 70% of our population has wavy to tightly curled hair.”
Kinky hair, she added, represents “the majority of our population and the majority of the population of the word.” As such, it is her goal “to show how beautiful that natural curls can be.”
While admiring the beauty of the women frolicking in the park at this weekend’s curlfest, Creme of Nature’s VP of Marketing Jolorie Williams said, “If you look around here, we see people that use our products and I see people that look like me.”
When asked why the brand doesn’t shy away from influencers with type 4 hair like so many others, she replied, “I have 4C hair that’s why it’s important! It’s a struggle and the struggle is real! It’s important for us to work with those influencers because we want that level of credibility we people want to hear from someone who’s going through the struggle not just me the VP of marketing but someone who gets in their car goes to the store and spends their money to buy the product.”
One “someone” they chose was Dayna Bolden, a Fashion, Lifestyle, Beauty and Natural Hair Blogger whose lovely brown face was featured in Creme of Nature ads all last summer.
Williams stated that she goes out of her way to work with a variety of influencers so that the brand’s customers “can see that we’re authentic and that we’re real.”
In a space often criticized for being overly curated, a commitment to showcasing the full scope of natural hair and its beauty is a step in the right direction. Do you struggle with hair privilege?